'Democracy is on the ballot' in Arizona. How TV news covered the primary reflected that

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As goes Arizona, so goes democracy.

No one on TV news said that out loud during coverage of the primary election Tuesday night. But the implications were there, early and often.

“The fact is, democracy is on the ballot tonight,” Don Lemon said on CNN.

And he’s right.

Arizona wasn’t the only state holding primaries. But it was front and center during coverage, given Donald Trump’s endorsement of Republican candidates in all the biggest races on the ballot: Kari Lake for governor, Blake Masters for U.S. Senate and Mark Finchem for secretary of state.

Arizona's primary 2022 live blog: Latest developments, including Taylor Robson vs. Lake

John King: 'How deep is this cancer of supporting the Big Lie?'

Trump is still out there pretending he won the 2020 election, in Arizona and in the U.S. (He didn’t, as even Republican-sponsored audits have proven.) But if you promote the lie, you stand a good chance of getting his endorsement, as Lake, Masters and Finchem demonstrate.

“How deep is this cancer of supporting the Big Lie, saying elections are rigged, in the Republican bloodstream?” John King, standing before his big board on CNN, asked before polls closed in Arizona. “Kari Lake is the Trump-endorsed candidate there who has said if she loses this primary tonight it’s because there’s cheating. Who does that sound like?”

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You know who. Trump endorsed Lake in her race against, mainly, Karrin Taylor Robson, who is also a Trump fan but less eager to endorse his baseless claim of victory.

“Will Arizona Republicans tonight possibly nominate an entire statewide slate of candidates who back the Big Lie?” King asked. “Or will the Republican Party finally say enough and move on?”

Why Arizona played such a big role in primary election coverage

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC’s khaki-wearing magician of his network’s big board, looked to the future of what the wins mean going forward.

“The possibility here is of all the swing states in the country, if these Trump-aligned, Trump-backed candidates win their primaries tonight in Arizona, Arizona will be fielding a slate of Republican candidates that is more in tune with Trump on the 2020 question than any other Republican Party in any other swing state in the country,” he said.

What a proud moment.

Networks were most fascinated by Lake, who has embraced conspiracy theories and bashed the media, despite being a Phoenix TV news anchor for years. In fact she bashed the media Tuesday, in particular Vaughn Hillyard, the excellent NBC News reporter who graduated from Arizona State University.

He noted, as King did, that Lake has said if she lost she would claim fraud. Hillyard asked Lake, on camera, “At what point does Kari Lake stop and say, ‘Am I undermining American faith in our elections?’”

Lake went third person in not answering his question. “Kari Lake is going to help bring honest elections back to America,” she said.

Again, Arizona’s 2020 election has withstood withering attacks from partisans promoting lies about its security. But Hillyard persisted.

“But you haven’t laid out any fraud or irregularities,” he said.

“And unfortunately people like Vaughn are about destroying America,” Lake said.

The evidence based on his work would suggest that he is more about preserving it, but that’s not what was going on here.

Election guide: 2022 primaries

Election results |Congressional races | State races |Mayor, city council races|How to vote

Bret Baier: 'We always want to make sure that we have all the numbers from Arizona'

Maybe it’s Lake’s history as a journalist that fascinates media. But not everyone is buying her conversion from news anchor to extreme Trump loyalist.

“Somebody like Kari Lake seems to be doing a theatrical pose that will get her into office,” Joy Reid said on MSNBC. You wonder. …

It makes sense that Arizona was a big part of the story Tuesday, and will continue to be till November. It has been since Election Night 2020, after all, when Fox News calling the state for Joe Biden set off all kinds of fireworks, a shock that reverberated throughout the night and long thereafter.

Bret Baier, who was one of the Fox News anchors that night, certainly hasn’t forgotten. Updating results at the start of Sean Hannity’s show Tuesday night, he said of the numbers, “Probably not going to get them till about 11 p.m. Eastern time. We always want to make sure that we have all the numbers from Arizona.”

That’s a good idea, because the numbers from Arizona will continue to be important. We’re just getting started.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movies newsletter.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: How Trump dominated Arizona's 2022 primary election results on TV news